tv Focus on Europe PBS October 24, 2015 6:00pm-6:31pm PDT
host: hello and welcome to this week's "focus on europe," showing you the human stories behind the headlines. great you could join us. and on today's programme we're zipping all over the continent. in greece, the refugee who's racing towards a better life. in france, the floods and what caused them. and in norway, moving country, but staying in jail. one of the flash points of europe's refugee crisis is the small greek island of lesbos. it's near the turkish coast, which means it's become a stepping stone to safety in europe for refugees fleeing war in the middle east. so every day thousands of people
are washing up on the beaches of lesbos, looking for safety. but for many the real struggle is only just beginning. it can take months, if not years, to be granted asylum -- and in greece that very rarely happens. and then of course there's the question of how to find work and a place in society. we've been to meet one young man, who's, quite literally, taking it all in his stride. reporter: 42 kilometers, in 2 hours and 15 minutes. that's what houssein hmaidouch needs to run to get a chance to join the greek national marathon team. right now, he's five minutes off that time, so he's training hard. for hmaidouch, it's more than just a lifelong dream. >> i'm going to fight for this to the end. i only have this one thing in mind -- there's no plan b.
reporter: the island of lesbos has been hmaidouch's home now for the past six years. he fled his homeland morocco after being involved in a political movement opposing independence for the western sahara. he started receiving death threats and decided to leave. he wanted to apply for political asylum in greece, but thought he'd stand a better chance through running. he wants to be the first refugee to reach the top. hmaidouch is very popular in lesbos and many are hoping he can gain greek citizenship. one of his friends is a physiotherapist and treats him for free. >> i've treated a lot of top athletes. but i'm fascinated by hussein's story. he has the physical ability to have a great career. but marathons are tough, he can't do it alone. reporter: 25-year-old hmaidouch was already a talented runner
back in morocco. in greece, though, he faces many obstacles. the main one is his lack of greek citizenship, which has both a practical and emotional impact. >> it's quite a burden psychologically. obviously this status of just being tolerated by the greek state is difficult for all asylum seekers. in my case it means i can't compete anywhere abroad, where i would be able to test myself against the best. reporter: every day the greek coastguard rescues refugees from the sea and brings them to the island's capital mytilini. 73,000 refugees arrived here in september alone. most of them are transferred to the mainland within a few days, on specially chartered ferries. the island's mayor, who belongs to a right-wing party, is pleased to see the back of them. he doesn't really want the refugees to stay in greece at all.
but for hmaidouch, he's happy to make an exception. >> i know hussein and we're proud that he takes part in all these national competitions and brings back medals to the island. maybe more refugees could prove beneficial to the island, but it needs to regulated by the european union. they should run a selection program and give us the ones that meet our criteria. we visit one of two refugee camps in lesbos. reporter: it's not government authorities but ngos that are providing the refugees with the basics. hmaidouch helps where he can. with his good knowledge of greek, he's able to help the new arrivals land on their feet in this new environment. that's another reason why he's popular in lesbos. >> my brother was sick and hussein helped me to get him into hospital. and then he provided a tent for us at a former campsite and got
blankets and clothes for us. >> one of the reasons i decided to stay in greece is because people here need me. i could have moved on long ago and tried my luck with another athletic associations. but i can't let these other refugees down. reporter: hmaidouch really needs a sponsor. but since the onset of the financial crisis, professional footballers are the only athletes anyone in greece is prepared to pay for. still, hmaidouch says he's grateful. he has a small apartment that he shares with a refugee from afghanistan. >> my future in morocco has been destroyed, i can't go back there. i was one of the best runners in morocco but still suffered persecution. my parents keep telling me to come back. but i've made my decision.
reporter: so hmaidouch continues to train hard, for the right to open a bank account or drive a moped. for all those things, he'd need greek or eu citizenship. his friends know it won't be easy, the odds are against him. >> he needs to perform even better than any of the greeks, so that he can prove himself. reporter: just five minutes separate hmaidouch from the target time -- and from a better chance to get the greek passport he's hoping for. until then, he'll keep running toward his goal. anchor: most of us associate the french riviera with holidays, beaches and the glamour of the cannes film festival, but earlier this month the region was hit by deadly floods. heavy rains and violent storms killed at least 21 people. and destroyed homes, businesses and livelihoods. and now local people are demanding answers as to what exactly caused the flooding.
and how it could be prevented next time. reporter: when the floodwaters started pouring in, ginger and her little brother were home alone. their father came to their rescue. he fought his way through the water and helped them onto the roof. they made it just in time. in less than 5 minutes the entire house was flooded. >> this was my room. it was worst affected 'cause the water came in like this. i found tree stumps and fish on the floor. if my father hadn't come, we'd be dead now. i'll never forget how we sat on the roof that night and all we could do was watch our things get washed away. reporter: in the village of biot, not far from the mediterranean, residents are still in shock. normally the brague is a calm river. but earlier this month it was transformed into a raging torrent that swept away
everything -- and everyone -- in its path. the horns spent hours on their roof before being rescued by helicopter. in a nearby senior citizens' home, several residents drowned after the water made its way through the ventilation shafts. the storms that hit the côte d'azur in early october were unusually violent. people in biot had never seen anything like it. but they also wonder whether much of the devastation is due to increased development in recent years. >> this is the sea and the red parts used to be agricultural areas. now it's built up, and water from the mountains can't flow away. reporter: in recent years, wealthy developers have paved over much of the waterfront -- all the way from nice to toulon. they've built hotel complexes, holiday homes and senior citizens' homes. the côte d'azur is one of the most popular -- and the priciest
-- coastlines in europe. coffers by selling land for huge sums. but little was invested in flood prevention. now local officials are being accused of negligence. but many place the blame elsewhere. >> climate change is more to blame than all the ground that's been paved over. we need to work with the state, and adapt our construction plans. and above all, we need to ensure that lives aren't put at risk. reporter: at this glassworks, which was also built on they're too busy to apportion blame. they've got their hands full trying to get the business up and running again. the storms destroyed the ovens and the electrical wiring. if they can't fill their orders on time, that will likely spell the end for their business.
>> it's like in war, you deal with the emergency. i can't think about who's responsible. i have 25 people counting on me, with families to feed. i've lost my firm, but they've lost their workplace. reporter: fortunately, the glassworks have already received the first insurance payment of 200,000 euros. but the horns have yet to see any insurance payment. first they have to list their losses. but for many in biot the material damages are secondary. they worry that they're no longer safe here. ordinary citizens and environmental groups are angry that they have no lobby to stand up to the powerful developers. >> they should just tear everything down on the côte d'azur and start over, rebuild things the way they used to be, more spread out, with less concrete and asphalt. but money has too much power, and we have too little. it's not like the mafia, but almost.
reporter: the horns are now living in a borrowed rv. they've lost all their possessions. >> even if the insurance rebuilds the house, there are memories and souvenirs, that can't be replaced. that's what hurts the most. reporter: the floodwaters are gone, but in biot they'll be cleaning up for a while to come. jamesey, the horns' young son, says he wants to leave for good. anchor: the scandinavian prison system has a reputation for being rather liberal and certainly jails there are more comfortable than most jails in the u.s. but it seems that in norway prisons are also getting crowded. so some norwegian prisoners are now off abroad. but it's certainly not a holiday, as our reporter has been finding out. reporter: these are jon's last
days in jail on the outskirts of oslo. but jon, as he calls himself, isn't being released. he's volunteered to be moved to another prison in the netherlands, more than 1,000 kilometers away. he says he's not a violent criminal, but he'll spend more than a year in jail. and as a repeat offender, he's unlikely to be paroled. >> the way i understand it, there will be norwegian case officers i can talk to there. the sentences are served according to norwegian law. the dutch officers are supposed to be well-trained, they know what they're doing. and the dutch are quite like the norwegians anyway. reporter: the dutch are leasing 242 cells to the norwegians, in norgerhaven prison, near assen, for a duration of three years. when the agreement was signed earlier this year, then state-secretary fred teeven said he's confident it will all go
smoothly. >> all that will change is the menu, because norwegians like to eat more fish than we do. reporter: of course it's not that simple. many prison cells in the netherlands are empty, because criminals are being sentenced to community service or fines instead. still, some inmates must be moved to make way for the norwegian arrivals. the norwegian prisoners are far from their families and friends. the language barrier will also be an issue, even though the guards have taken classes in english and norwegian. >> it'll take me a while to learn norwegian, but i know some of the basics. reporter: the scheme will cost the norwegian ministry for justice 25 million euros. it's a way to tackle prison overcrowding, and use the space available in the netherlands. but in norway, the prisoners' families are outraged. visits will be more difficult,
and they say the lack of visits will also make it harder for inmates to reintegrate into norwegian society after their release. >> we've calculated it will cost 550 euros per person to visit the prison there. it's unfair that there is no support available. it's the families of prisoners are who bearing the brunt of the state's failure to sort out the problem with prison overcrowding. reporter: the norwegian ministry for justice is downplaying the issue. they say they're selecting the prisoners that will be moved to the netherlands carefully. >> we apply certain criteria. any prisoners who have regular visitors under the age of 18 won't have to go. any prisoners with a right to education don't either. and inmates who require specific medical care will also stay here.
reporter: the norwegian ministry of justice had originally hoped that 242 prisoners would volunteer to be moved to the netherlands. so far, only 60 have come forward, so many prisoners will have to be moved against their will. that's a source of anger and frustration amongst many families. jon doesn't mind the move. he's not taking part in any resocialization program, and no one's waiting for him to get out, so he views it pragmatically. >> the winters there are warmer. that's nice, i can get outside more. reporter: life behind bars is monotonous. jon hopes that moving to a jail in another country will at least be a change. anchor: well that's european integration for you, too many prisoners in one country, so
send them to a country where there are too few. let me know what you think. a lot of you have contacted me over the last few weeks about europe's migrant crisis. richard in the u.s. wrote to say that refugees have a responsibility to learn the language of the country where they have ended up. others have written to say that europe should help. what do you think? let me know. at the moment most migrants seem to be heading here to germany. what's interesting is that a few months ago there a sort of euphoria in the air as the country pulled together to help the new arrivals. but when i talk to german friends now, you get the feeling the mood is shifting, and there are growing calls to help people fleeing war, but not those fleeing poverty. which is why berlin is now redefining some home countries as "safe" -- including montenegro -- meaning that most migrants from there will be sent back. the problem is that some say they are fleeing more than just being poor.
reporter: steelworker vladan stepanovic and hundreds of his co-workers have been protesting against the government for weeks, here outside the parliament of montenegro. they blame prime minister milo dukanovic for the country's widespread poverty. and they hold him responsible for election fraud, corruption and nepotism. >> as long as this government stays in power, montenegro cannot be a democratic country. if nothing changes, my family and i have no choice but to leave. reporter: dukanovic first rose to power in 1991. he and his party have dominated politics in the small balkan republic ever since. dukanovic has been prime minister and president, and he's also a businessman. while he and his clan have become multi-millionaires, many ordinary citizens despair of the future. >> the problem is not just an economic crisis. the problem is also the lack of moral values. the government came to power after 1990 and the collapse of
yugoslavia, and since then everything has fallen apart. reporter: he wants to show us what he means, and takes us to the steelworks in niksic. he was one of 7000 steelworkers once employed here. the dukanovic clan oversaw its sale, far below value. kickbacks worth millions were allegedly paid in the proess. and the dukanovic family lined their pockets. the steelworkers have watched their livelihoods be destroyed. an entire industry has been wiped out here in the region. to vanja calovic, who heads an anticorruption organization, the steelworks sell-off is just one example of the government's wheeling and dealing. but few dare to speak out. >> if you are not supporting the governing party, if you are fighting against corruption and organized crime, then certainly you are going to be attacked and pressured. reporter: when calovic went
public about election fraud, she experienced first-hand the consequences of speaking out. pro-government newspapers launched a witch-hunt against her, publishing photos designed to undermine her credibility. >> i believe that it is the biggest proof that we are seriously undermining corrupted structures in the government and organized crime structures which are connected to that. reporter: but many of the steelworkers in niksic are resigned to their fate. poverty is rampant. many now live in barracks close to the steelworks. bribery is the only way they can come by a new job. >> the situation has become so bad that many of my former colleagues come to me to ask for a liter of milk, otherwise they can't feed their kids. reporter: a growing number of montenegrins are seeking asylum in germany, in the hope of escaping corruption.
but their own government refuses to acknolwedge what's happening. >> i don't have any kind of knowledge that corruption or criminal activities in montenegro are causing this phenomenon of asylum seekers from montenegro. who are the asylum seekers even now? they're just, i'm afraid, a little bit poor people with less education, with less knowledge. reporter: to vladan stepanovic, such statements are ludicrous. he's a skilled worker and all he wants is a job without paying bribes, without strings attached. if he can't find that here, he might leave for germany. anchor: the other day in berlin i met a family of syrian refugees as they were arriving in germany for the first time. as we came out of the main train station i pointed out chancellor angela merkel's office and i was quite surprised how reverential they suddenly looked. the german chancellor has become something of a hero for many
asylum seekers because of her open door-policy. one ghanaian woman has even called her baby daughter angela merkel in gratitude. but something similar has happened before to a former british prime minister, who back home in britain is ironically rather unpopular these days, but in kosovo is a national hero. reporter: his passion is football. his name will be familiar to you. he likes to work in the garden and bears the same name. both live in kosovo, two of 9 boys named after britain's former prime minister. meet toni bler thaci and toni bler muliqqi. the first time we met toni bler thaci, he was preparing for a big day, he was about to train with a team from kosovo's professional football league. we asked about his name. >> i was 4 years old the first time i understood what my name means. it was a great feeling.
i didn't know who tony blair was back then, but i knew i was named after somebody really important. reporter: today toni bler thaci is 16 and lives in a suburb of the kosovan capital pristina, right next to the country's largest power and heating plant which is constantly polluting the atmosphere. his father died when he was little, and they live off his mother's pension of 75 euros a month. >> it was during the war that i became pregnant. my husband and i decided if it was a boy we would call him tony blair. reporter: the family of toni bler muliqqi also decided before he was born to name him after the british prime minister. toni bler muliqqi is 15 years old and lives in a small village half an hour outside of pristina.
>> i like it, i think it's great that i've been named after tony blair. i was 7 when i understood who he was -- he liberated kosovo. reporter: in 1999, the then prime minister of britain was instrumental in bringing about nato airstrikes against serbia -- in order to protect kosovo. at school, bler muliqqi was taught that it was tony blair who helped bring about independance for kosovo. when the former prime minister visited pristina in 2010, he got a hero's welcome. the two tonis got to meet their namesake in person, along with the other seven toniblers. >> hello, my name is blair thaci. >> hello, my name is toni blair muliqqi. reporter: it must have been quite a unique experience for britain's former prime minister. kosovo is still not recognized by all nations of the world and the economy is on its knees.
blair muliqqi's family scrapes a living from a few cows, who produce milk and cheese. many families here rely on money from relatives living abroad to survive. >> if i could meet tony blair again, i would ask him if he could help me to be able to study abroad. that's my greatest desire -- apart from football. reporter: tony blair thaqi wants to become a professional footballer and lift himself and his mother out of poverty. he sees no future for himself in kosovo otherwise. youth unemployment stands at a shocking 70 percent here. so there's only one hope. >> going abroad is important for my development as a footballer. i train 5 times a week, and have a match at the weekend, so that's six days a week.
reporter: blair thaci's talent has already been spotted, and he's even been able to attend a training camp with galatasaray istanbul. in pristina's new pedestrian zone, things looks good. much has changed here since the two toni's were born. some people are doing well in the new kosovo. but many have fallen by the wayside. toni blair thaci is determined not to be one of them. anchor: well, that's it for today. thanks for watching. remember do get in touch anytime with your thoughts and comments. we really love hearing from you. but in the meantime, it's goodbye from me and the whole team. and look forward to seeing you next time. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org]
steves: a selection of ferries make the 50-mile crossing between helsinki and tallinn nearly hourly. because of the ease of this delightful two-hour cruise and the variety a quick trip over to estonia adds to your nordic travels, pairing helsinki and tallinn is a natural. stepping off the boat in tallinn, the capital of estonia, you feel you've traveled a long way culturally from finland. its a mix of east and west. tallinn's nordic lutheran culture and language
connect it with stockholm and helsinki, but two centuries of czarist russian rule and nearly 50 years as part of the soviet union have blended in a distinctly russian flavor. fins and estonians share a similar history. first, swedish domination, then russian. then independence after world war i. until 1940, the estonians were about as affluent as the fins, but then estonia was gobbled up by an expanding soviet empire and spent the decades after world war ii under communism. when the ussr fell, estonia regained its freedom, and in 2004, it joined the european union. tallinn has modernized at an astounding rate since the fall of the soviet union. its business district shines with the same glass and steel gleam you'll find in any modern city. yet nearby are the rugged and fully intact medieval walls, and the town within these ramparts has a beautifully preserved old-world ambiance.
among medieval cities in the north of europe, none are as well preserved as tallinn. the town hall square was a marketplace through the centuries. its fine old buildings are a reminder that tallinn was once an important medieval trading center. today it's a touristy scene, full of people just having fun. through the season, each midday, cruise-ship groups congest the center as they blitz the town in the care of local guides. like many tourist zones, tallinn's is a commercial gauntlet. here there's a hokey torture museum, strolling russian dolls, medieval theme restaurants complete with touts, and enthusiastic hawkers of ye olde taste treats. woman: [ laughs ] steves: but just a couple blocks away is, for me, the real attraction of tallinn -- workaday locals enjoying real freedom and better economic times. still-ramshackle courtyards host inviting cafés.